Arch Enemy – Khaos Legion (2011)

Posted: May 19, 2011 in Music

The list of metal bands with female lead singers is short. While there are many bands that have a female singer alongside a male singer, there just isn’t an abundance of bands that have the girl holding the sole responsibility of carrying the vocals. The list gets shorter when you remove the operatic stylings popular with bands like Evanescence and Nightwish. Sure, they’re metal bands, but the vocals really aren’t. What you’re left with is an exclusive list of gals that can really belt out metal vocals. In This Moment, Straightline Stitich, Kittie and Otep all have strong female singers, but when you look to the top of the list, there is one vocalist that truly stands out from the rest – Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy.

With her gristled growls and hoarse screams, Gossow not only wears the tiara of the best female metal vocalist going, she also holds her own in comparison to her male counterparts in the genre. But there’s more to Arch Enemy than the brutal yet beautiful frontwoman. A lot more.

The band was formed in Sweden in 1996 as maybe the first “supergroup” of metal, combining members from legendary acts Carcass, Carnage, Mercyful Fate, Armageddon, Eucharist and Spiritual Beggars. The influence of these bands is very prominent on each album in Arch Enemy’s arsenal, resulting in a band that quickly rose to the top of the scene, and has been hovering there for the last ten years.

June 7th, 2011 will see the band release it’s latest contrinbution, Khaos Legion, to the masses. In a year which has already seen several strong releases and a handful of pure gems, I was curious to see if Arch Enemy would deliver something that would compare, or if they had finally come to rest on their laurels and decided to finally dial one in.

The album kicks off with the instrumental dramatics of Khaos Overture. I”m not sure why almost every album these days starts of with a 30-to-45-second intro to build to the first real song of the album, but in this case, it wasn’t as cheesy and over-the-top as most – so they get a free pass. The kick in the face that bloodied my mouth came as soon as the second track – Yesterday Is Dead And Gone – began. So much for dialing it in…

The track (and most of the album) feels like a call to arms of sort for Arch Enemy’s continuing anarchist anthem. It’s powerful, it’s aggressive, and it makes you appreciate how good melodic death metal can be. Make no bones about it, this is the same Arch Enemy that’s been kicking your ass for the last decade, but while they have pretty much maintained the same formula over their career, there are a few subtle changes that, for me, put this album at the pinnacle of their discography.

For one, the album shreds harder, faster, and more precise than anything the band has done before. The guitar duo of brothers Michael and Christopher Arnott have long stood in the shadows of some of the more talked-about and recognizable axemen in metal, but it’s apparent with this release that all of that’s about to change. The guitar work on this album is the best these two have ever pulled off, and the precise shredding of each solo are mind blowing. They have definitely set a new bar of achievement that others would be wise to take note of. The hooks are technical, yet rip away perfectly with the ebb and flow of the album – an album that shifts around from style to style but stays in your face from start to finish.

Another noticeable improvement is in the structure of these tracks. The band has stepped it up a notch when it comes to their songwriting from the instrumental aspect. The wall of sound is built solidly from each perfectly tracked instrument. Whether it be the drums, the bass, or the bridges, it’s obvious a meticulous effort was given to even the smallest elements. That should come as no surprise, though, as these guys (and gal) are the ultimate professionals – and that fact shines through this CD.

The final subtlety I noticed was that Khaos Legion has a more resounding “thrash metal” feel to it than previous releases, which is just fine with me. By adopting a little more of the thrash sound, the guitarists are given the opportunity to let loose on the fretboard a bit more – and trust me, that only adds to this outstanding effort. But don’t go breaking out your Anthrax t-shirt just yet, this album is still a MDM release. It’s majesty lies in the shifts and swings that Gassow and company are pulling you through – giving you no choice but to come along for the ride.

The sophistication of Arch Enemy simply continues to amaze me. If you are a fan of complex musicianship, great guitar work, and melodic death metal done to perfection, then you MUST check this album out (which as a sidenote is a full hour long). With 2011 nearly half gone, the front-runner for album of the year belongs to Arch Enemy – just don’t forget your mouthguard, or you may not find your teeth.


01 – Khaos Overture (Instrumental)
02 – Yesterday Is Dead And Gone
03 – Bloodstained Cross
04 – Under Black Flags We March
05 – No Gods, No Masters
06 – City Of The Dead
07 – Through The Eyes Of A Raven
08 – Cruelty Without Beauty
09 – We Are A Godless Entity (Instrumental)
10 – Cult Of Chaos
11 – Thorns In My Flesh
12 – Turn To Dust (Instrumental)
13 – Vengeance Is Mine
14 – Secrets
(Bonus Tracks)
15 – The Zoo (Scorpions cover)
16 – Snow Bound (Acoustic)

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